(Chapter 15 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


Even with this ongoing flurry of activity among the poets, there began a slow and steady exodus from Bolinas in the mid-seventies. Everyone had their own reasons, but there was a general shift in the air at the time. The government had tightened up on NEA grants and even welfare money was drying up. It became more and more difficult for poets to get by in Bolinas. Many poets turn to teaching, but living in Bolinas made this problematic - it was a tough commute to San Francisco or Berkeley where there were teaching jobs.

The sixties actually didn't end until the mid-seventies. Bolinas was an outpost of that counterculture movement which was eventually co-opted and devoured by society. Stubbornly holding to those sixties values, Bolinas nevertheless was not immune to the changes in political and economic climate that came about as the seventies progressed.

Robert Creeley spent increasingly more and more time away from Bolinas. This was in part due to teaching and reading gigs everywhere from New York to New Zealand, but also, as Creeley had said, the death of Jack Boyce and his own marital difficulties were contributing factors. Creeley left Bolinas for good in 1976 as his marriage to Bobbie Louise Hawkins finally came to an end.

Gordon Baldwin, who had been the director of the Bolinas Community Center for several years, left town in 1976, moving to Taos. Baldwin remembers that his landlord, Mrs. Sharon, made the comment that he had been renting from her ''for a very long time,'' and it became clear that she had other plans for the property. Reflecting on this, Baldwin decided she was right, he had lived in Bolinas for seven years, and he was ready for a change.

Bobbie Louise Hawkins was writing poetry and short prose pieces, the latter exceptionally fine and often humorous reminiscences and accounts of her early life growing up in Texas, and had several books published in the late seventies. She also teamed up with the folk music duo of Rosalie Sorrels and Terry Garthwaite, and spent more time away from Bolinas on a series of road trips with Sorrels and Garthwaite performing a blend of folk songs and story telling.

A newcomer to town in the midst of all those leaving was the writer Donald Guravich. Originally from Canada, Guravich met Joanne Kyger at the Naropa Institute in Boulder and followed her back to Bolinas in 1978. Living with Kyger, Guravich found work with Bill Brown, eventually learning the art of tree-trimming which he began to do freelance. Guravich edited and published a little series of magazine/chapbooks entitled No Difference Here which began in 1980. His terrific little book Triggers was published by Tombouctou in 1983.

By the mid-seventies Tom Clark had all but completely withdrawn from the social scene in Bolinas. While he was instrumental in bringing many poets, particularly those from New York, to Bolinas, he never really bought the community line and he held very little respect for what was political consciousness in town. He said that he saw Bolinas as, ''a Zippy-the- Pinhead kind of landscape. All individual mutations and variations were condoned because you couldn't be too strange for the place. If you weren't strange you didn't fit in and were resented.'' In a 1975 interview in the literary journal Sun & Moon, Clark said, ''My wife says I'm a bitter pastoralist. If so, Bolinas has done this for me.''

''Tom was a lot more social in the early days that I lived in Bolinas,'' said MacAdams, ''Most people I knew in Bolinas didn't know Tom at all. He was just this guy they saw jogging early in the morning…I never remember him at any of the poetry readings or anything like that.'' Joanne Kyger also remembers that Clark was only seen jogging, ''usually with a grim expression on his face, carrying two big stones, one in each hand, to throw at any dogs that might decide to chase him.'' Jim Carroll's only reference to Tom Clark in Forced Entries, is a fleeting vision of Clark jogging, wearing ''one of those Superfly, Back-to- Africa pillbox jobs. He never stops. We seldom speak, but simply nod at each other with a look of camaraderie born of the knowledge that we have both succeeded in our quest to become complete anti-social hermits''.

Clark became involved in a number of journalistic book projects—he wrote a book about the rise and fall of the Oakland Athletics baseball team and biographies of Damon Runyon and Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych. These projects took a lot of time, work and concentration, and contributed to what became his near hermit-like existence in Bolinas. He also produced an impressive amount of poetry during this period as well.

In 1978, after ten years on the mesa, the Clarks packed up and moved to Colorado.

Lewis MacAdams left Bolinas in 1979, relocating to Los Angeles ''It got to the point for me,'' he said, ''where I couldn't walk down the road without seeing ghosts. I couldn't go to any corner of the mesa that wasn't overpopulated with images of myself.''

The change in the late seventies was in part due to the state of the U.S. economy. In the mid-seventies the OPEC oil crisis caused gasoline prices to skyrocket and inflation took over. It was increasingly difficult to get by financially. Many of the poets had families. In order to keep themselves and their families together, they had to find sources of income - something that wasn't easy to do in Bolinas. Others had simply tired of the scene, the small town ''everybody knows what everybody else is up to'' atmosphere. As David Meltzer said ''We were in an everyday reality, exoteric and esoteric—many of us were raising families just as a lot of 'beat' folks, in their moment, were—as anyone knows, nothing lasts forever''.

The diverse threads or themes that pervade the works written there provide compelling criteria for the distinct character of the place and the community that everyone who lived there was a part of. As for the poets, they each brought with them their unique individual visions, and a convergence of poetries took place. In that convergence, or confluence, it was inevitable that influences would blend.

It's a subtle linkage, as though these were notes toward a poem that was never finished, juxtapositions in a collage-like arrangement working as a cohesive statement, whether that was the intention or not.

A list of the poets, writers and artists who lived for varying periods in Bolinas between 1967 and 1980, gives one a core sample of the literary and artistic avant-garde of the time: Paul Alexander, Donald Allen, Gordon Baldwin, Terry Bell, Franco Beltrametti, Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Michael Bond, Ebbe Borregaard, Jack Boyce, Joe Brainard, Richard Brautigan, Jim Brodey, Bill Brown, Jim Carroll, Tom Clark, Robert Creeley, Darrell DeVore, John and Margot Doss, Richard Duerdon, Lew Ellingham, Steve Emerson, Tom Field, Charles Fox, Bob Grenier, Donald Guravich, Jim Gustafson, Paul Harris, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Dale Herd, Patrick Holland, Lawrence Kearney, Jim Koller, Joanne Kyger, Annie Lamott, Kenneth Lamott, Keith Lampe, Lewis MacAdams, Duncan McNaughton, David Meltzer, Alice Notley, Arthur Okamura, Louis Patler, Stephen Ratcliffe, Aram Saroyan, Orville Schell, John Thorpe, Tom Veitch, Lewis Warsh, Peter Warshall, Philip Whalen, Michael Wolfe, and Hanford Woods.

Among the visitors during this period were, John Ashbery, Robert Bly, Andrei Codrescu, Clark Coolidge, Gregory Corso, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, Kenward Elmslie, William Everson, Larry Fagin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jane Freilicher, Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Philip Guston, R.B. Kitaj, Gerard Malanga, Jeffrey Miller, Pat Nolan, Charles Olson, Tom Raworth, Ed Sanders, Harris Schiff, Gary Snyder, Charlie Vermont, Anne Waldman, and Lew Welch.


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